New long-termer – project M5

DrivingTalk has bought a ridiculous car. It was going to happen sooner or later....

By Tim Kendall | 1st May 2012

Garage Log

  • Model: BMW M5 (E39)
  • Date Purchased: March 2012
  • Total Mileage: 87,000
  • Mileage Since Last Report: N/A
  • Cost Since Last Report: N/A
  • Economy: N/A

As a fictional simpleton once proclaimed: stupid is, as stupid does. Roughly translated – the measure of a man’s stupidity or lack thereof, is usually demonstrated in his actions. Stark evidence of this is to be found in the practice of buying used performance cars, something I’ve long since known.

Yet I’m not one to pay heed either to a dubious proverb from the Forrest Gump school of life, or my own first-hand experience of buying interesting, financially ruinous used metal. I’d rather plough my own furrow, thank you very much.

And that’s what I did about a month ago, when I found myself bidding on an E39 BMW M5 in an online auction. I’d been looking for a W124 Mercedes 500E, but they are as rare as a female chicken’s gnashers and I had itchy feet. So another iconic, and slightly more plentiful V8 super-saloon it had to be then.

BMW M5 E39

Finally, a BMW

But instead of taking my time and buying from a private seller or benefiting from the safety net of a dealer-warrantied car, I thought I’d be clever. So for the umpteenth time, I went down the Arthur Daley route. Except by buying it unseen from a car auction, I wasn’t clever at all, I was breathtakingly stupid. More of which later.

Why an M5? To fellow petrolheads this one doesn’t need any explanation – it’s right in pretty much every area that counts – ballistic performance, V8 soundtrack, fantastically resolved ride/handling balance, rear-wheel drive, manual ‘box. The list goes on. And without getting all dewy-eyed, it’s a tacitly acknowledged fact that we probably won’t see its like again – the relentless march of dual-clutch ‘boxes, engine downsizing, and turbo charging will see to that.

My only hesitation was the blue and white propeller badge, which is irrational given BMW’s long track record of building great driver’s cars. I’d previously stayed Beemer-free because I couldn’t get on with the image – when in the market for a car of the E46 M3’s ilk, I opted for the rarer Mercedes C55 AMG instead – eschewing the brash, obvious Beemer, fantastic though it is, for the anonymous Q-car. For me though, an E39 M5 is excusable – it’s the last relatively simple, hoonishly exploitable M5, and the combination of manual gearbox and big V8 all wrapped up in the handsome E39 shell is as good as it gets. Yes, for these reasons, I had to have one and here it is.

BMW M5 E39

Don’t buy a car just because it looks shiny

At £5,300 the hammer went down, and I bagged a 2002 ’02 face lifted car with the ‘angel eye’ headlights and uprated, more reliable VANOS – seemingly undeterred by the obvious warning signs. Amongst which, and shining like a beacon amongst used car warning signs, was the fact that here was an outwardly desirable car that sounded too cheap to be true. I ploughed ahead regardless, even though the book price should have been closer to £7k for a car of this vintage with 87k miles. Only when the delivery driver backed it off the truck and merrily handed me the keys, did reality slap me about the face like a wet, expensive kipper as the engine made ominous knocking sounds.

BMW M5 E39 interior

So the M5 dream was to turn sour before it had even started, more of which in the next installment. Suffice to say that M50 AWT’s assorted mechanical maladies have furnished me with enough M5-related knowledge in the space of a month to write a book on the subject. Thankfully, Google and the proliferation of internet forums teeming with specialist M5 knowledge, have been my stalwart friends throughout my short, turbulent tenure. The one sweetener in this slightly forlorn tale is when it works, it rewards like nothing else. To be continued…

By Tim Kendall
1st May 2012


  1. Tim – have you got a “subscribe” option that emails when you publish new posts…?



    • Tim Kendall says:

      Hi Sean

      There probably is a subscribe function in WordPress, but I’m not techy enough to find it right now. I’ll post updates on Twitter anyway if you’re interested!


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